Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Art of Abdul Mati Klarwein

Abdul Mati Klarwein is probably best know as the painter who created the album cover art for Santana’s Abraxas, and for the album that defined fusion jazz, Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, both of which were released in 1970. This was my first exposure to his work—I recall spending hours looking at the cover of Abraxas as I played that record again and again.

Annunciation, 1961 (cover art for Abraxas)

I first discovered Klarwein’s art as a larger body of work, however, a couple years later. I had the good fortune to be visiting a friend of mine one day; he showed me a book of Klarwein’s art, titled Milk n’ Honey. I totally flipped over this work, and have been a huge fan ever since.

Klarwein was a “visionary”/surrealist painter who possessed an extremely high level of technical skill. In the second half of the twentieth century, the mainstream of the art world was focused mainly on abstract and/or conceptual art. Because Klarwein’s art happened to be on some album covers, and because he ignored the prevailing trends of modernism, Klarwein was considered by the art establishment to be “just” a commercial artist or “psychedelic” artist, and was as a result rejected and ignored. Unfortunately, this situation still exists for the most part.

You will probably never see Klarwein’s work in an art history class, and although a few books featuring his work have been published over the years, sadly, they are all out of print.

(click on images below for larger size)

Still Life with Sugar and Nuts, 1956

Artist and Model, 1959

St. John #1, 1962

Astral Body Asleep, 1968

Astral Body Awake, 1969

Bellini Family, 1973

Elanore Ananda, 1975

Wet Curve, 1981

Soundscape, 1982

Laure Klkarwein, 1986

Camouflage, 1987

There is some excellent information on Klarwein at wikipedia, and there is a beautiful website featuring a ton of his work, more info, and quotes from Klarwein himself. I you like his art, I strongly suggest you check it out.

What does it say about the art world that it was immune to its [Klarewein’s art] clear and present beauty? – musician Jon Hassell

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Sculpture Controversy

While sitting in the dentist's chair this afternoon, I saw a story on one of the news channels having to do with a controversy surrounding a sculpture of Martin Luther King that is in the works. This sculpture is to be placed on the National Mall in Washington D. C. The sculptor, Lei Yixin, is Chinese. Lei has been designated a master sculptor by the Chinese government.

Apparently, some people are upset with the choice of a Chinese sculptor. Maybe they would prefer someone like Richard Serra. Hey-- he's not black, but a least he's an American.

(Incidentally, ten of the 12 people on the committee that chose the sculptor, Lei Yixin, are black.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Art by Jesse Jacobi

Jesse is the younger of my two sons. He is currently twenty years old. I hope he doesn't mind if I post a few of his drawings. Some of these are at least a couple of years old.

Jesse is a musician and is trying to get over with his band. So far, he does art mainly to amuse himself. I may be biased, but I think these drawings are pretty damn cool.

Examination of Self

We Are Cohesive


(title unknown)

The Voyager

Jesse lived with his mom, not with me for most of his life, and had minimal instruction in the few art classes he had in high school. He is not studying art in college. I have had little direct influence on his artwork-- this work is largely the result of his own personal artistic effort and vision.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Guardian

I am in the middle of exam week at school with my students and at the end of the semester, so things have been really busy lately. I would love to make posts more frequently, but I just haven't have the time lately. I have a number of topics I would like to address, but in the meantime, I thought that now wouldn't be a bad time to post this painting of mine that has not yet made an appearance.

This piece was painted in 1996, shortly after a near-fatal car accident that I was in. When I say near-fatal, what I mean is that I thought for sure that I was going to be killed. Fortunately, other than a good concussion and some sizable bruises, I was not seriously injured. Briefly, here is what happened:

I was on the expressway in afternoon rush hour traffic, and as I approached my off-ramp, traffic leading up to the ramp was backed up and had come to a standstill. I slowed and got in the line of cars. I saw a car coming up behind me, really fast, and it hit me in the rear, the driver having hit the brakes only at the last second. CRASH!!! My thought was to hang on and try to keep control of the car. Fat chance of that. As soon as my head stopped banging around, I realized that my car had spun around 180 degrees, and a split second later I was hit almost directly head-on by a big black Ford 150 pickup truck. I was driving a Saturn, low to the ground. The truck loomed above me, and BANG!!! I was certain that it was the end. Well, obviously not-- my car was spun in the other direction and slammed into the concrete wall on the median side. After I stopped seeing stars, I realized that I was still alive. The front of my car was smashed almost up to the windshield. I was afraid to look down at my legs. Incredibly, I was unharmed, and was able to step out of the car. About six or seven cars were involved in the collision, but fortunately nobody was seriously hurt.

On hearing of the accident and my narrow escape, a number of my friends said, "You were saved by an angel." I was skeptical, but hey-- you never know. What all of this did to me mentally and emotionally was pretty deep and fairly personal, so I do not think that I will go into detail about it. After all, this is an art blog! Suffice it to say that I was very uneasy driving on the expressway for about six months.

A few weeks after the accident, this painting just came out of me. I was doing commercial illustration at the time, and just about all of my art was very carefully planned out; I rarely just let things happen on their own. But in this case, I just felt compelled to start painting one day. I had nothing in mind whatsoever, but this painting just appeared, almost on its own. I'm not suggesting that anything mystical was going on; more likely just my own mental/emotional trauma, but again, who knows.

I think of the figure in this painting as the guardian angel of artists, hence the title. Don't ask me why there is no paint on the palette-- I don't know. It just seemed right for some reason. The painting is acrylic on canvas board, 24" x 30".

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Electric Jon

This is a photo I took of my son Jon, with some manipulation in Photoshop.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Art on Vacation

I recently came across a couple artists of interest while on vacation over Christmas break. I met one of them during an airplane trip; the other one's work I found in a gallery in Florida. I would like to show you some of their art; however, I’m not going to comment directly on their work. If you have read any of my previous posts on modern and postmodern art, you will probably have a pretty good idea of what I think about this artwork. I would like to invite you to opine, if you wish.

The artist I met on the plane is an associate professor of art and art education at a major University in the Midwest, and has a MFA degree from another major Midwestern University. He seemed like a very nice fellow; I asked him if he had a website. Yes, he gave me the url; this work is from his website.

The second artist I discovered in a gallery located in a popular gulf coast city in Florida. The artist owns the gallery, and has two others as well in different cities. According to his promotional material, he has sold over 35 million dollars worth of his art. His paintings were priced in the neighborhood of $35,000 to $65,000. Of course, he also has a MFA degree.

Okay, I can’t restrain myself. As much as I try to keep a somewhat open mind about art, I find this work very hard to swallow. The professor—I can’t believe that anyone takes this stuff seriously, but evidently, they do. The big dollar artist—when I saw his work I thought, “I can’t believe anyone is paying that kind of money for this stuff!” That being said, I thought that some of his work was arguably semi-okay (the last piece is an example), but mostly I felt like yo—I couldn’t bring myself to show anything like this.

Unlike some, I still believe that at least some demonstration of skill should be shown in a work of art if it is to be taken at all seriously. I recently read an article in Art in America (June 2007) titled “Art schools: a group critique”. In this article, I came across a new term: “de-skilling”. Apparently, in the view of some in the art world, “de-skilling” is seen to be desirable, even mandatory in some cases. Skill in art is a thing of the past—we need to move beyond it, don’t you know? It seems to me that the two artists I am presenting here are a couple of good examples of being de-skilled. Remember, the MFA is in many cases much more about “artspeak” than actual works of art (for more on this, see my previous post "Non-art","Artspeak" [October 10, 2007]).

“Art on Vacation”—perhaps this title has a double-meaning.

Again, your comments are encouraged. If you can explain why any of this work has any significant merit, please do so.